One of the most popular and oversubscribed handicaps of the season, the Ayr Gold Cup is backed up by the Bronze Cup on Friday and the Silver Cup on Saturday.
The Gold Cup itself is a belter. As expected at least a dozen runners by our reckoning have a genuine chance, though these six stood out.
Michael Dods is a dab hand with these big sprint races, and his Commanche Falls has been kept off the track since landing the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood seven weeks ago.
That win was achieved on softer ground, but his previous successes at Hamilton and Ripon showed that faster going won’t bother him at all and it seems more improvement is on the cards now. Usual rider Connor Beasley is up top.
Ed Walker is carving out a reputation as a good trainer of sprinters, helped in no little part of course by his handling of the top-class Starman.
He has the ante-post favourite here in the shape of Great Ambassador, three times a winner this season including last time out in a Listed race at York.
That’s a good level of form and he is on an upward curve, his new rating of 105 not looking beyond him. Richard Kingscote is back on board having scored on the four-year-old previously at Newmarket where the gelding also showed a tolerance for a tough finish.
Most horses in our list are young(ish) improvers, but in Gulliver’s case he represents the tried and tested big sprint handicap brigade.
He was second in the Stewards’ Cup and a good fourth at the Curragh last time, but most of his best work has been achieved at York and he’s getting no younger. Each-way chance.
Only a three-year-old, Les Ayre’s Just Frank was showing himself to be a solid and consistent type for the stable this term but reached a new level last time and could improve again.
At Thirsk three weeks ago he made all very easily over six furlongs and while this race is an entirely different challenge, should his progression continue he’d have to be bang in there with a chance under Paul Mulrennan off a mark of 100.
Much like Ed Walker, Charlie Hills has done very well with sprinters in recent years and especially for this owner, Shadwell.
Motagally is a big price, but he has plenty in his locker. His two standout performances last season came at Bath, but it could be coincidental.
He seems to peak about now, has run only four times this season, was solid enough at Goodwood last time and could yet have his best form dragged out of him by this track and the guaranteed fast pace. Former champ Paul Hanagan is on board for his former retainer.
Ed Walker may well win this race in the end, but perhaps not with the favourite. His Popmaster, a busy three-year-old, had already reached a mark of 89 before being gelded back in May.
Since then, he’s improved plenty, running a fine third at Newmarket, winning at Doncaster and again last time at Ascot in fine style under Ryan Moore.
He beat a fair field two weeks ago with the minimum of fuss, is almost certain to improve further and looks for all the world the type to appreciate this track. Hollie Doyle takes the ride too, so we have a confirmed big-race jockey on board.
Popmaster is essentially rated 100 here being that he is allowed in with a 5lb penalty for his last win, though his official rating is 102 and it’s felt that he is better than that now.
Just Frank remains of interest as a young horse with more to give, but this race could turn out to be a very good one for trainer Ed Walker in the end.
There is plenty to like about his apparent first string, ante-post favourite Great Ambassador, and yet we are even more smitten with his younger runner POPMASTER who gets the vote.
Popmaster won in a good time at Ascot a fortnight ago, managing that without being overly exerted and it could be that he is already a good deal better than what he managed to show there while he is also officially 2lbs well in before any improvement is taken into account.